L.A. County's unemployment rate in October remained at 4.5 percent, unchanged from a revised September figure but down substantially from a year ago and lower than both state and national averages, according to figures released Friday from the state Employment Development Department.

The 4.5-percent seasonally-adjusted rate is the lowest since the state changed its data collection methodology in 1990. It's also lower than the national unemployment rate of 4.8 percent in October and is the second-lowest rate in the region, behind Orange County's 3.8 percent.

And while the county continued its sluggish payroll jobs growth adding just 20,000 jobs for a non-farm payroll of 4,037,500 total civilian employment hit at an all-time high of 4,674,000, up 155,000, or 3.3 percent, from October, 2004.

The figures pointed to the increasing role of the informal economy, which includes self-employed and contract workers. That burgeoning economy also was reflected in total civilian employment in California, which surpassed 17 million in October for the first time ever, up 461,000, or 2.7 percent, from a year earlier.

At the same time, state non-farm payrolls rose by a mere 6,800 jobs from September to a total of 14, 821,600. The state unemployment rate rose slightly to 5.2 percent in October from a revised 5.1 percent in September, though it's down from 6 percent in October 2004.

The county jobs increase from September was led by gains of 14,600 jobs in education and 2,200 jobs in retail, while the year-over-year increase was spurred by gains in construction (8,000 jobs), leisure and hospitality (7,400), health services (7,000) and trade/transportation (3,000). These offset losses of 7,100 manufacturing and 5,400 non-education government jobs over the past year.

At a local level, the city of Los Angeles posted a 5 percent unemployment rate in October, while Long Beach had a rate of 5.1 percent. The lowest unemployment rate among L.A. County cities with populations exceeding 100,000 was Torrance at 2 percent, while the highest was Lancaster at 6.1 percent.

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